Nalanda was a Buddhist university established in 450CE, and was the longest running university in Indian history. Among its many notable guests were the Buddha and Mahavira, and at its zenith accommodated over 10,000 students and over 2,000 faculty. However, it was destroyed by Turkish Muslim invaders in 1193, when the students and teachers were massacred and the massive university library was burnt down, and all that remains are extensive ruins that are spread over an area of 14 hectares.
Nalanda is rather well served by train for being such a small town. There are a few direct trains from both New Delhi and Kolkata as well as major cities in Bihar, including Patna. However, nearby Bihar Sharif, being an railway hub, offers plenty more choice. A more luxurious option is the Mahaparinirvan Express excursion train. Operated by Royal Indian Trains, this train visits important Buddist sites across Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
- 1 Nalanda railway station.
Shared jeeps plying the route between Rajgir (15 km) and Bihar Sharif (35 km) make a stop at the turn off for Nalanda. Rickshaws and other vehicles are available from here to the main gate, a distance of 2 km.
Bus facilities are available from Patna, Gaya, Bihar Sharif and Rajgir. See the 'Go next' section below for more details.
The main way to get around Nalanda is by Tonga (horse drawn cart). A trip from the main road (where a bus or jeep will drop you off), up to the university ruins and museum should cost you ₹50 for the whole cart, or ₹10 per person in a shared cart with other people.
- 1 Great Stupa. Remains of the stupa has terraces and smaller stupas. ₹100 (for foreigners). The ticket office is just across the road from the entrance. Mind the beggars and shopkeepers.
- 2 Nalanda Archaeological Museum (Directly opposite the excavation site, 150 meters from the road). 9AM-5PM, closed Fr. The museum houses a significant collection of Pala and Mauryan statues. The six air conditioned (!) rooms show off stone and metal statues that were found during the excavations of Nalanda and surrounding villages. The statues are a little detailed and full of expression than other museums in the area. Entrance ₹5.
- Nalanda Multimedia Museum. Great place to visualize the History of Nalanda. It runs a 20-minute (₹50) movie about the history of Nalanda using 1990s style 3D animation. About half the information contained in the show can be gained from signs around the university ruins. It's interesting and actually worth it if you have a little extra time and a spare ₹50. To get there, keep walking up the road from the university ruins/official museum about 200 m and it will be on your right.
There are many roadside stalls near the entrance to the Nalanda historical site an museum. Nothing flash, but samosas and snacks can be bought to sustain you. For a meal, there's a restaurant just down from the ticket office towards the (non-multimedia) museum. There's also a nice Garden Restaurant Run in the Nalanda Multimedia Museum - open peak season.
Prefer packed drinking water bottles and surely look for a reputed brand.
Many visitors to Nalanda prefer to stay in Rajgir as there is a greater choice of accommodation.
- China Temple. Located near the Nalanda Mor - On Biharshrif-Rajgir Highway.
- Youth Hostel
- Bodh Gaya (89 km). There is a direct bus during peak season, but the more reliable way is to get a bus to Gaya (sometimes involving changing in Rajgir), then a bus or Rickshaw (₹200) down to Bodh Gaya.
- Rajgir (15 km). About every half hour (₹8)
- Patna (80 km). By train it will take about three hours, the fastest one is the Budhpurnima Express that departs 11:45PM and arrives in Patna Junction 2:10AM. The easiest way by road is to get a bus from the Nalanda main road up to Bihar Sharif (about every half hour, ₹8), then change for an eight-hour bus to Patna (₹70) from the same bus station. Beware Patna traffic jams, and be ready to add an extra few hours to your journey in bad cases.
- Deo (130 km). The city of the Sun Temple.